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Commissioners, county judge argue during SH 45 Southwest discussion

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The Hays County Commissioners Court’s discussion surrounding a letter sent by Travis County asking the county to reconsider its plan to move forward with the completion of the final section of State Highway 45 Southwest devolved into an argument between court members.

Travis County sent the letter following a decision made by the Hays County Commissioners during its Aug. 30 meeting to select CP&Y, Inc. to complete the design and engineering process for the final portion of SH 45 Southwest. The roadway would connect the SH 45 loop at FM 1626 with Interstate 35 in Buda. Services for the roadway will cost Hays County an estimated $2.5 million.

Travis County’s letter outlines its disapproval of the project.

“Making the connection from I-35 to FM 1626 would effectively make Mopac an I-35 bypass, dramatically increasing vehicular and truck traffic,” Travis County’s letter reads. “The traffic impacts of this decision by Hays County would have a profound and detrimental effect almost entirely on Austin and Travis County. The fact that there has been virtually no effort to coordinate this action with either Austin or Travis County is unacceptable.”

The letter also addresses concerns regarding Hays County commissioners Mark Jones and Walt Smith’s portrayal of discussions regarding the roadway as “very positive.”

“We are particularly concerned that during the brief discussion of this item, Hays County Commissioners Jones and Smith characterized the views of Travis County Commissioners Howard, Gomez and Travillion as ‘very positive’ about the project,” the letter states. “We are writing to make clear that this is not an accurate portrayal of their views.”

Jones stated during Tuesday’s meeting that he didn’t depict Travis County Commissioners Jeff Travillion, Ann Howard and Margaret Gómez as favorable during the meeting. He also took issue with a video released by County Judge Ruben Becerra — the lone court member to vote against the SH 45 Southwest decision — claiming that Jones and Smith lied and misled the court

“I was disappointed, judge, that you took to edit a video to try to make me look like I said something I never said,” Jones said. “What was the saddest part is people that talked to me about it said they were not surprised you would do that. It’s good to know.”

Becerra released the video on several social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Sept. 15, to approximately 9,100 combined followers. The video includes an edited portion of the discussion that took place.

Jones said Travis County took issues with the mischaracterization that he said they were for the project.

“What they were upset about was [Becerra’s] mischaracterization that I said that they were for the project,” Jones said. “When you put out a little snippet, you leave out the part, you deliberately edited out the part where I said, ‘I am not comfortable answering for them, let them answer for themselves.’ That was a deliberate tactic on your part to make it look like I lied, and that’s what they’re upset with.”

Becerra’s video, however, was released after the Travis County Commissioners Court took action on the item during its Sept. 13 meeting.

“I’m getting a little too much credit that my tiny, little social media post is what entire county governments and other media outlets are using for information,” Becerra said. “They all have access to the unabridged version, and all I did was give it a thumbnail  highlighting what I viewed as mischaracterizations. And, the government of Travis County agreed that it was misrepresented.”

Jones, the Republican candidate running against Becerra for county judge, accused Becerra of campaigning from the dais.

Becerra was later asked if he supported the SH 45 Southwest project to which he didn’t give a direct answer, however, he stated he was against the process that occurred.

“My response is clearly you two have not done the work to tell me if [supporting the project] is a smart decision or not,” Becerra said.

Smith then accused Becerra of not knowing the process taken for transportations projects.

“That tells me in three and a half years of sitting on that dais, you don’t understand the process that we go through on transportation,” Smith said. “If you looked at the contract you would know exactly what it was. You would know that it took months. Literally, months to agree on what the scope of that would be. You would know that $2.5 million is not what the cost of the project is, it’s what the overall capital project is dependent on the deliverables and the scope.”

Commissioners Debbie Ingalsbe and Lon Shell both expressed sentiments of open communication between the entities that would possibly be involved in the project, including Hays and Travis counties, the Texas Department of Transportation, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

“I agree with Commissioner Ingalsbe to keep the lines of communication open,” Shell said. “Like was mentioned, this is a very long-term planning study. It takes a long time to develop these projects and as long as our consultants working on this can keep everybody in the loop, we’ll be doing the best we can.”

Shell later said that the court wouldn’t be having this discussion if there wasn’t an election looming.

“I really think the issue here is we wouldn’t be having this discussion if there wasn’t an election in about a month,” Shell said. “I think we all understand that. That’s what this is all about. What we should do is be grown ups, which I think is our job to communicate with our partners. It’s going to take time to develop something like this. It’s worth it. It’s important to the citizens of Hays County for us to do this. When you look at it on a map where [SH] 45 ends right now at [FM] 1626, and where 45 begins again at [I]-35, it’s probably about 2 miles. It looks like a natural connection to study. I don’t think it’s the most ridiculous thing to think that Hays County, the City of Buda and others would be interested in looking at the connection to see how that could happen? When it would happen? How much it would cost? How would you mitigate the concerns?”

Following the lengthy discussion, no formal action was taken by the commissioners regarding Travis County’s letter.

To view the full discussion, visit





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